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L.A. school board races remain too close to call after latest update in vote count

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A tight race between two Los Angeles school board candidates with big-money supporters got tighter with the release of the latest vote tally Thursday.

Since the end of the first count early Wednesday morning, the gap between Maria Brenes and Rocio Rivas has shrunk from 852 votes to 203 votes. Brenes leads with 50.17% of the votes to Rivas’ 49.83% in their bids to represent District 2, which includes downtown, adjacent neighborhoods and much of the Eastside.

In District 6, in the east San Fernando Valley, school board President Kelly Gonez saw her lead grow over challenger Marvin Rodriguez, from 298 to 1,115 votes. Gonez has 50.94% to 49.06% for Rodriguez, a high school Spanish teacher with virtually no campaign money and no major endorsements.

Many votes remain to be counted, and it’s difficult to predict trends in the remaining votes because ballots could be cast by mail, in person at many locations across L.A. County and over an extended period of time.

Based on the turnout in the June primary, there could still be 10,000 to 20,000 votes left to be counted in each district.

Updated money figures through Thursday continue to show that most of the campaign funding went to the District 2 contest, where the winner will replace longtime incumbent Monica Garcia, who could not run again because of term limits.

The Brenes campaign raised $633,613, compared with $123,217 raised by Rivas.

The independent spending was larger on each side.

Campaigns on behalf of Brenes spent $5.15 million in positive advertising promoting Brenes and $434,689 in negative advertising against Rivas. One major source was Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teacher aides. Another was a political action committee controlled by retired businessman Bill Bloomfield and Netflix founder Reed Hastings, a charter schools supporter. This PAC was responsible for the negative ads.

The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, spent more than $2.9 million on behalf of Rivas. Union leadership approved of Rivas’ desire to curtail the growth and influence of charters, which are privately operated, mostly nonunion and publicly funded — and compete with district-operated schools for students.

The union spending also included some negative messages about Brenes, but the union has declined to classify these ads as negative campaigning.

Brenes is the leader of the Boyle Heights-based community group InnerCity Struggle. Rivas is a senior aide to school board member Jackie Goldberg.

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